In 2014, the Yasodhara Ashram, located in southwestern Canada, lost its temple to fire. The foundation, which stands on a cliff at the edge of the forest, was saved and now serves the new Temple of Light as a fundament. This saved both money and materials during the building process. For residents of the ashram and visitors, who were spiritually connected to the old temple, the gesture goes far beyond economic factors.
The parametric design for a large, open sacred space originated in the research department of the Canadian studio Patkau Architects. Eight curved walls rise in an interlaced structure, a bit like flower petals, to form the dome above the assembly space. A gleaming white shell lies over the construction of engineered timber supports and reflects the daylight. As Luke Stern of Patkau Architects puts it: “The temple will not dominate its surroundings, but become part of them.” And vice versa - the environment becomes part of the temple, for windows in the lower area of the walls provide views in all directions, not only over the lake, but to the adjacent buildings and into the forest. A lateral section of the building is home to the reception area and the entrance for processions. Secondary spaces and storage are discreetly hidden behind a curved wall.
For the architects, this temple project represented a sort of prototype in the quest for a transportable, efficient building system for evocative, vaulted spaces. The design for the Temple of Light arose from close collaboration with the ashram, which is committed to sustainability and minimal interference with the ecosystem. The unconventional shape forced the team to use digital manufacturing processes and communicate with contractors primarily with the aid of the 3D model.